17 February 2010

Seaforth Highlanders numbering 1900-1906

I have previously published sample numbers and joining dates for the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Seaforth Highlanders. I also mentioned that there were some peculiarities, and I'd like to expand upon that now.

Seaforth numbering trundles along quite happily and sequentially until March 1900, by which time the regiment was numbering in the 7300s. By the end of March, however, numbers in the 8200 range start appearing and these continue into 1901 when again, certainly by March 1901, numbers in the 9500 range start surfacing - and keep on going, at least until January 1902. By June 1902 (and probably a good deal earlier) we're back in the 7000s again and numbering continues sequentially from there.

Not for the first time, I am at a loss to explain why there were these big leaps in numbering. There doesn't appear to be any pattern as far as place of enlistment is concerned and neither does there in terms of the enlistment periods for which men were signing up. If anyone can suggest an explanation, or provide me with additional confirmed enlistment dates and corresponding numbers for the period below, please do so.

Here though, for what it's worth, are my rough estimates on Seaforth numbering for the period 1900 to 1906, this information based on the dates and numbers recorded on attestation papers of the time.

28th March 1900
7361 joins
31st March 1900 - 14th Jan 1901
Numbers in the range 8273 to 8515 are issued
25th March 1901 - 20th Jan 1902
Numbers in the range 9561 to 9911 are issued
5th June 1902 - 21st November 1903
Numbers in the range 7604 to 8188 are issued. Numbers 8273 to 8515 have already been issued in 1900 and 1901.
19th January 1904 to October 17th 1906
Numbers in the range 8689 to 9524 are issued. Numbers 9561 to 9911 have already been issued in 1901 and 1902.
20th November 1906
10021 joins

From here on in, numbering returns to a sequential pattern without gaps, albeit the Seaforths, A&S Highlanders and the Gordon Highlanders would abandon their number series in 1908 and commence a new series beginning at 1.

Attestation papers for all these numbers - and many more besides - are accessible on-line as part of a FREE 14 day trial with Ancestry.co.uk.

I've borrowed the photograph on this page from Roger Clarke's family history website. It shows 1822 Corporal Thomas Hunter Dawson Cheeper of the 4th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders. Hunter Cheeper (as he was known) was born on the 8th February 1898 and judging by his number, joined the 4th Seaforths two or three days before Britain went to war in August 1914. He would have been sixteen years old at the time, and was probably no more than 17 or 18 years old when this photo was taken. Nevertheless, he arrived in France on the 7th November 1914 and appears to have served throughout, ending the war as Second Lieutenant, and staying on with the British Army. He would also serve his King and Country during WW2.

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Stuart said...

Quite likely that the jump in numbering will be due to TF soldiers enlisting with Volunteer Service Companies to serve with a regular battalion in the Boer War. The Volunteers were to be re-numbered as regulars but from a separate block. Details are given by David Langley and Graham Stewart in 'Regimental and Army Numbers of the British Line Infantry Soldier from AD.1800 to 2008'.

AO 29 of 1900 and AO 41 of 1901 give: '....the Volunteer numbering should run consecutively, with an interval of a clear thousand between the last number received by an ordinary recruit, at the date on which the Volunteer numbering begins, and the first Volunteer number'.

Paul Nixon said...

Thanks Stuart, that makes sense.

The York & Lancs certainly fell into the category that you mention. I was looking at their records last week and their records are very clearly differentiated between 1900 and 1902. I'll go back and look at the Seaforths and report back.


Graham said...

Hi Paul,
I tried posting a comment similar to Stuarts pointing out that this odd numbering could indeed be linked to the Volunteer Service Companies, but it didn't send for some reason.

As mentioned by Stuart the first V.S.C.'s had a block specifically allotted to them seperate from their Regular colleagues. However their terms of service were totally different and from the Discharge Certificates I have in my possession it seems they only enlisted for one year.

My thoughts are that not all V.S.C. numbers set aside were used up from any one block and it is known more than one block of numbers were issued to V.S.C's. This was because some regiments raised more than one V.S.C. over the period of the Boer War.

With this in mind I suspect unused V.S.C. numbers were thrown back into the melting pot to be used up be regulars. Once the last V.S.C's. had been disbanded numbering amongst regulars would then settle down.

As it stands it's only a theory, but what makes it difficult to determine is the fact that we're unsure as to what happend to the V.S.C. volunteers themselves.

Many came from the Volunteer Battalions of the parent regiment and it is suspected that they went back to their old V.B's., but because they had to take their Discharge to become regulars, then it's highly likely that on their return to their old V.B's. that they were infact issued with new numbers as required under Volunteer Regulations.

Paul Nixon said...

Nice to hear from you again and thanks for your comment - and for your persistence in re-posting.

There are quite a few York & Lancs records which survive for old VSC men enlisting (all for one year) with the regular battalions. There are two clearly defined blocks starting at 7000 and 8000 but also at least one rogue number and eveidence too of the unused numbers that you mention, then being issued to men who were joining the regiment on regular terms. I'll perhaps post separately on the Y&L as a case study.

Incidentally, roughly how many men formed a VSC? 250?

Paul Nixon said...

I may have answered that last question.

Just searching for Volunteer Service Companies on Google, I came across extracts from, "The Volunteer Service Company (1st South Lancashire Regiment) in South Africa during the Boer War, January, 1900-July, 1901" where it mentions, "The numbers required were one company of 116 to joine each line battlion..."

Les said...

Hi Paul,

I’m starting at the beginning of trying to find as much detail about my Grandfather’s service during WW1.

I have a copy of his MIC card showing Reg. Number S/11087 and the fact that he was awarded the Victory and British medals. The reference is G/104 B10 Page 615. He enlisted with the Seaforth Highlanders. I do not know which battalion he was in? Family stories are that he spent time in India but I cannot trace any exact dates for joining / leaving or if he indeed went to France. Any clues or direction?

Many thanks,


Paul Nixon said...

Les, I've left a response as another post here: http://armyservicenumbers.blogspot.com/2011/09/s11087-seaforth-highlanders.html